Sudden aggression!

Hello, i have a basenji pup, Pongo, who is 7 months old now. i have had him since a puppy. i have posted a thread a long time ago about aggression towards me and my husband when we would pick him up and found everyones answers helpful so i need to post a new one. i searched through pages and pages of threads already and cannot find one that is like my situation so i need help!

Ever since my last posting when Pongo would get mean when i would pick him up, i have sinced resolved the matter and have not had any such problems ever since. in fact, he has been such a good boy! he WAS the perfect dog. However, about 2 weeks ago things all of a sudden changed for which i do not know why.

My problem is is that Pongo has suddenly become aggressive with strangers and people he knows. sometimes, really really agressive! luckily he hasnt drawn blood yet but he had come close. its a weird situation but ill do my best to explain it.

One of the first times i saw it happen was when my husband and i were driving home from somewhere and we had my sister in the back seat with the dog. every time he would look at her, he would grown, and once when she touched him, he did the "im about to bit you snarl" and snapped at her. she pulled away so she didnt get bitten but the whole rest of the way home he had to sit with me in the front. its not like he has never been in the car with people before. there have been a few diff situations where he had to share the back seat and he was fine.

then like a few days later 6 or 7 freinds came over for a movie.we all sat on couches, including the dog with one of the guests. one guest went to the bathroom then when he came back he just walked by pongo and pongo jumped at him at snapped. ever since then pongo snaps at this person every time he sees him. everyone else he was fine with. there is also one other person that pongo started to snap at every time he sees him. he gives him a warniong growl for like 1 second and the snaps. this person cannot be near Pongo or he will freak!

I thought, well maybe pongo just doesnt like those two people, but then yeasrterday, we went to the beach and people wanted to come and pet him. he has always done fine with random people just comming up to pet him, but all of a sudden he is cautous, and will even snap/ attack some of them.

his warning growl is sometimes only like half a second long and doest give anyone any time to ever realize what is going on when he attacks. sometimes his fur will go up which is a sign that he is about to snap but other times you dont even see it coming.

I dont understand what is going on. ever since he has been a puppy has has been very well socialized. we always have people over and around him, petting him and everything and he has always been so good. no problems. any advice? im so confused.

My first thought when there is a sudden change in behavior is, have you had him in for a vet check up? Pain or discomfort can cause changes in behavior.

My next question would be, you say he has been socialized and you have people pet him often, does he get treats for being around people? Not all dogs like being petted so it is important to help connect being petted with something the dog does like, such as treats.

It sounds like something has either happened to Pongo to make him more cautious of people either lack of socialization or something negative during socialization. You've got to do more observation on what triggers Pongo. He's showing warning signs with the growls but that's after some progression.

There's gotta be even earlier warning signs that you haven't noticed. But you may want to condition Pongo to pets & people coming over. Perhaps you may want to monitor people coming up to pet him & say hello. This may be uncomfortable. for him. Look for the thread regarding "Tucker" there's some tips there but there's also some good books on Dogwise.Com that you can get to help. I would do it REALLY SOON as a puppy this is a critical stage for you to really mold him into the dog you want so HURRY & address this situation now.

Good Luck!

I would also look into a Behaviorist to work with you…. and have you talked with Pongo's breeder?

Thanks everyone for your help. i will try the treat thing and see how things work out. as far as i can tell, pongo likes to be petted. and loves to cuddle. i just dont understand why he is doing this. he hasnt been in for a vet check up and doest seem to be in any pain anywhere because of anything. i will talk to the breeder and see what she says.

I would still suggest that you look into a behaviorist for help… especially when you don't see or understand the reasons behind something that is happening... it makes it very difficult to resolve the issues... The simple fact that he had problems early on makes me think that while you might think these issues are resolved and they well might be, he has moved those problems now to other people.

I agree with Pat that it would be a good idea to seek an outside opinion. The fact that this came on pretty suddenly and has escalated to snapping pretty quickly would make me really want to get this under control before it escalates further.

Pongo, a 7 month old is a challenging age all by itself.

My 6 month old has all of his adult teeth now and has been biting anything and everything very hard. He is beginning to learn bite sensitivity and that is probably an additional factor in your story.

If a basenji changes behavior suddenly it is important to verify that your basenji isnt in pain or discomfort first. And, basenjis dont all show pain the same way. My female would just shake, my male would be very growly when he had a bladder infection.

I would suggest asking your vet to do a fecal, urine and blood test. You may also want to check his eyes as well. Trainers suggest massaging your dog all over and in the mouth to get them used to handeling. It is a good way to note any painful areas.

I can say it is very bizare behavior for a 7month old to growl and want to bite if you have had him since he was 8weeks without anything traumatic going on.

I do remember that around 7 months is when I began yelling, "no" at Caesar and he became far more difficult, never growling, but difficult. Socialing him in an obedience class with lots of other people and dogs would be a good way to work on training and how he addresses others (your rules). It also helped me understand and communicate with him.

Keep us posted.

Basenji Mix

Very good suggestions Mantis. DITTO on the Obedience training. That is a great way to socialize a puppy. The training instructor is with you for hands on help. PetSmart offers very good classes and they are reasonably priced.

Pongo has already taken puppy kindergarden and basic obedience classes. his last class was about 2 months ago. im afraid to enroll him in any more classes because i dont want him "attacking" or biting anyone. i will get ahold of the vet and see what they have to say. i got the same suggestions from the breeder and she also told me to try a water bottle. everytime someone comes over and pongo begins to growl likes he about to attack, i spray him. i guess im not suppose to acknoledge him but just spray him. so far it seems to work. he stops growling for a few seconds and cant figure out what just happened. when (on the very few occasions) he is ok with someone being around him i tell him good boy and give him his favorite treat. i guess i will try this for a little while and see how this works out. thanks again for everyones help. as i have been monatoring his behavior latly i can see that he trusts my husband and i am would never snap at us for anything. when he is on the couch or being held by my husband and i and someone even just walks too close to him, he snaps. it seems like a pertective thing then. but when we is just walking around and someone comes close to him, his fur gets raised, ears go back, and he will not take his eye off that person. its like he is catious, nervous even. its strange. but im going to try everything i can think of to get this resolved. ill keep you posted. thanks!

He is resource guarding you. I would not squirt him when he growls, you will teach him not to growl and go straight to bite. You really need a behaviorist, one familiar with positive reinforcement techniques.

Breeders are a great source for a whole lot of information; but for aggression problems, see an aggression specialist 🙂

Find the leash aggression thread, and go to article that yodeldogs posted…that will explain why correction doesn't work well in this situation.

Aside from having Pongo checked out by the vet to rule out any health issues, I would say that Pongo maybe attempting to make his place in the pecking order.

It seems like he is not recognizing his place and he is challenging the order.

How are you treating him at home?
Is he treated like a dog first and not like a human?
Does he earn his food? Do you make him follow basic commands like sit/wait before being served?
Check out how you are dealing with him and make sure that you're not treating him like an equal.
He might be challenging his position and trying to be top dog in the house and with others.

im afraid to enroll him in any more classes because i dont want him "attacking" or biting anyone.

If you have taken several obedience classes then you shouldnt have these types of problems that treats will easily fix. I would expect with yout training in the class you would know how to address your basenji.

My dogs will raise their hair like a mowhawk when scared at the dog park on first meeting. They posture and hop around not letting anyone close to them.

It is very strange that your boy would growl/bite.

I would do a vet check to rule out health issues.

I hate to say this, but reading that post, Pongo is ruling the house or better said, confused on "who" should rule the house…. Pongo thinks it is his job to protect you and your husband from everyone.

IMO, the water bottle is not the way to go. He needs to learn that people are good things... not something that causes a surprise....which again IMO can lead to even more aggression.

Personally, I don't think this has anything to do with pack order…not surprising for anybody who knows me 😉 Sounds to me like he is a nervous, resource guarder. He growls because he is afraid of anybody taking away, or getting in between him and his precious 😉

Honestly, Quercus i agree with that. i do know that my husband and i have worked very hard to establish dominence with Pongo. he obeys everything we say, and IS the dog in the house. we make him wait for his food, show him that we are the first ones out the door, and he even goes to bed (in the crate) when we tell him to "go to bed". he is a very good dog overall. i will look into a behavioralist and im going to talk to our obedience trainer tonight. if anything, i think pongo is reacting in nervousness or fear or protecting his territory. i thought we had done a good job socializing pongo but maybe im wrong? i dont know.

@Pongo:

Honestly, Quercus i agree with that. i do know that my husband and i have worked very hard to establish dominence with Pongo. he obeys everything we say, and IS the dog in the house. we make him wait for his food, show him that we are the first ones out the door, and he even goes to bed (in the crate) when we tell him to "go to bed". he is a very good dog overall. i will look into a behavioralist and im going to talk to our obedience trainer tonight. if anything, i think pongo is reacting in nervousness or fear or protecting his territory. i thought we had done a good job socializing pongo but maybe im wrong? i dont know.

Resource guarding is fairly common… and sometimes it happens (as do many behavior problems) without you even knowing it is happening.... just like "bang" one day it is there... It is very easy to miss the little things....so don't get down on yourself... at least you reconize the problem and are ready to correct it. I agree that a behaviorist would be the best choice....

@basenjibratz:

Aside from having Pongo checked out by the vet to rule out any health issues, I would say that Pongo maybe attempting to make his place in the pecking order.

It seems like he is not recognizing his place and he is challenging the order.

How are you treating him at home?
Is he treated like a dog first and not like a human?
Does he earn his food? Do you make him follow basic commands like sit/wait before being served?
Check out how you are dealing with him and make sure that you're not treating him like an equal.
He might be challenging his position and trying to be top dog in the house and with others.

And I agree with Andrea that this behavior is not "challenging for position".. but guarding "his" humans….

@Pongo:

Honestly, Quercus i agree with that. i do know that my husband and i have worked very hard to establish dominence with Pongo. he obeys everything we say, and IS the dog in the house. we make him wait for his food, show him that we are the first ones out the door, and he even goes to bed (in the crate) when we tell him to "go to bed". he is a very good dog overall. i will look into a behavioralist and im going to talk to our obedience trainer tonight. if anything, i think pongo is reacting in nervousness or fear or protecting his territory. i thought we had done a good job socializing pongo but maybe im wrong? i dont know.

Is your trainer using positive reinforcement training?

One thing that I learned recently regarding dogs with issues like this (I have two of them, by the way!) is that the socializing, and desensitizing them to strangers is often done in a way that makes the problem more intense for the dog. It is best for the OWNER to feed treats to the dog, as the dog meets new people…not the STRANGER feeding the dog. When the stranger feeds the dog, it makes the dog VERY conflicted..."I am really nervous, but I want the treat too" so it draws the dog towards the thing they are nervous about. This is something that I did wrong socializing our first and second basenjis.

IME, six and seven months is the first time that you start to see the personality that the adult dog will have. You can see hints of it when they are baby puppies, but as they mature you really start to see who they are. Is Pongo neutered? Sometimes neutering helps the kind of growly/bitey behavior.

Just a little further info-if you react to him in a certain way when this happens, and your husband reacts in a different way this may have some bearing on how he reacts in these situations. An eg is My Shadow nips at males that come in the house-only when I'm not there. There are 4 girls in the house-2 spayed and 2 not. If my husband is there he will nip-if I'm there he will not-because I won't put up with it. I'm not saying anything either way, just watch everyone's reactions. This may give you some further clues as to what is going on.

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